With long distance running marathons and triathlons becoming increasingly popular as well as a increasing array of high intensity exercise classes like Zumba, Barry’s Bootcamp, HulaFIt, calf muscle injures are seen more commonly.
Calf strain occurs when the muscle at the back of the lower leg becomes damaged or inflamed. This can be caused by excessive strain or force being placed on the calf muscle. These injuries often arise from sports that involve repeated jumping or change of direction. They can also occur with explosive sprinting or long distance running.
Calf muscle tears get more common as we get older due to loss of elasticity in our muscles and tendons. Soft tissue injuries get more common if you over train a certain structure and eventually it breaks. Injuries can start with micro-tears in the calf muscle and achilles tendon – this can result in a complete tear.
Patients are likely to feel aching and stiffness which becomes more apparent first thing in the morning and often the calf will feel weak. This results in the patient unable to resume activity and sometimes bear weight resulting in a limp.
If you’ve been inactive for an extended period of time, to prevent injuries you need to start off very slowly. Start with non-ballistic exercises such as calf raises. Then progress the program to eventually include ballistic exercises, maybe 3 months later.
Warming up and stretching after exercise is always recommended. Just be careful not to overstretch or put excess force on calf muscles. Stretch until there’s light tension in the muscles, taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling. Hold that position for 15-to-30 seconds, relax and repeat up to four times. Stay still and don’t bounce during stretching. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain; ease the stretch until it is comfortable.